‘By our Gov’t hands we suffer’- VI Airlink’s Neville C. Braithwaite Jr
However, he is the Premier of the Virgin Islands (VI) and has become the biggest advocate (lobbyist) for a foreign company, BVI Airways, who once operated in the VI but pulled out in 2014 after they went belly up, owing the BVI Airports Authority close to $100,000, according to the same Premier Smith.
Not only is he lobbing for BVI Airways and blasting a local company, VI Airlink, to the United States Government, additionally Premier Smith has injected $7M of taxpayers’ money into the airline in exchange for direct flights from Miami, Florida to the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island.
According to the deal now public, and signed off by the National Democratic Party (NDP) Administration, if BVI Airways never takes off taxpayers, hence the government, will not get a dime back.
Premier against local company VI Airlink
In a strange move Premier Smith, who the public expected to be supporting local businesses, wrote to the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) in Washington DC, strongly criticising locally owned VI Airlink simply because it filed an objection to the application of BVI Airways, which many in the aviation industry told our newsroom is a routine part of all applications.
However, the captain of locally owned VI Airlink is speaking out. In an exclusive interview with our newsroom, Mr Neville C. Braithwaite Jr said he was called to a meeting with Premier Smith last Friday March 10, 2017 not to be asked how he can help his airline company, but instead to demand why they had filed the petition objecting to BVI Airways.
Mr Braithwaite told our newsroom that from 2011 when the NDP was elected he twice had meetings with the Minister for Communications and Works Hon Mark H. Vanterpool (R4) and had proposed to do the same thing they are now funding BVI Airways to do, get new planes and do a direct flight from Miami, USA to Beef Island.
In fact “they never even got back to us on our Miami plan,” the local captain said of the National Democratic Party Government.
Mr Braithwaite Jr added that prior to the 2011 elections, VI Airlink also met with former Minister for Communications and Works Hon Julian Fraser RA (R3) and there were discussions.
Captain Braithwaite Jr alleged that he told Dr Smith last Friday that they had a US 135 company like Fly BVI and Island Birds, but recently they were forced by the Air Safety Support International (ASSI) to “go BVI registered.”
He said the Government and ASSI have been unfair to VI Airlink after they have been in business for over ten years. Mr Braithwaite said “many small US carriers now operating from Beef Island were given permission to operate in the BVI, as if it is their home, and we cannot operate in the USA the same way.”
In the meeting, Mr Braithwaite told the Premier that it is “unfair for the BVI Government to finance a foreign company from scratch because, with the money BVI Airways was given, it will put them in a position to wipe out all BVI and OT carriers.”
Premier don’t care about locals; We are suffering- VI Airlink
Mr Braithwaite said this simply means “under my own government my company suffers.”
He said Premier Smith told him they were “crazy” to be working with InterCaribbean of the Turks and Caicos against BVI Airways, but never mentioned how his Government is working with BVI Airways, a US Company, against our people and local business.
Yesterday March 15, 2017 Premier Smith had a meeting with the owners of InterCaribbean Airways and also lashed out at them for their objections to BVI Airways, according to a senior government official who was in the meeting.
Captain Braithwaite said VI Airlink’s offer is still on the table to do the same thing that BVI Airways is doing but he does not expect that the Premier will get back to them. The Premier “had the gall to ask what type of aircraft we would use.”
In being upset over the VI Airlink objection letter against BVI Airways sent to the US Department of Transportation, Premier Smith reportedly said that it is the view of the government that the matter should not have been objected to by VI Airlink.
"We therefore strongly support the application by BVI Airways and solicit the U.S DoT to approve the application of BVI Airways as expeditiously as possible,” according to the letter Premier Smith wrote lobbying for BVI Airways against the local VI Airlink.